Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hauraki Hoedown Highlight - Ramblin' Jack Elliot

Apparently the name Ramblin' Jack is not as it may seem the mark of honor given to a well travelled man (although I'd imagine that he is that as well) but is rather the result of this 75 year olds propensity to retell countless stories before answering even the simplest of questions. It's kind of ironic that a man so prone to the conversational arts can produce an album of 16 tracks that clock in at a mere 32-and-a-half minutes. "My Old Dog and Me" lasts 19 seconds!

As you might suspect the story goes a little something like this: born 1931 in New York, ran away from home as a teenager and joined a rodeo in an attempt to fulfill his childhood dream. Learnt to play the guitar and started busking for a living. Eventually he hooked up with Woody Guthrie and lived with him as a kind of student. Not too bad. And at 75 Ramblin' Jack has changed labels and released "I Stand Alone" on the Anti- label (home to the likes of Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Michael Franti & Spearhead) with an assortment of guest backup players including Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, Lucinda Williams, and celebrated rockers Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker, Nels Cline, and X / Knitters drummer DJ Bonebrake.

I played one of the longest tracks on the CD: "Arthritis Blues", a nicely sung prescription of folk cures for the protaganists arthritis including apple jack, gin and opium, none of which seem to do the trick. The only cure seems to be shared misery. Theres a lot of tales shared with the listener on this short CD, tales from songs collected over a life of travelling. In an anecdote that may resonate with people on the island, Elliot was going to call this CD "Not For The Tourists" because it was recorded in response to his daughter's request for songs he loved but never played in concert. When she asked why he did not play them in public, he replied "These songs are not for the tourists".

There's a couple of free downloads of the "not for the tourist" songs available from the Anti- site, here: http://www.anti.com/media.php?id=33

The full playlist of the Hauraki Hoedown can be found at the Casa de Country Mike.

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